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Special Collections & University Archives: Geneological Research

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Library offers many resources for genealogists researching family histories in southern Texas and northeastern Mexico.  Everyone is welcome to use the materials in the UTRGV Library regardless of University affiliation.

Visit Us

*Hours are subject to change without prior notice.*

Brownsville Hours of Operation

Monday - Friday
8:30 A.M. - 4:30 P.M.

Request a research appointment


Contact Us

(956) 882-7968

*Hours are subject to change without prior notice.*

Edinburg Hours of Operation

Tuesday - Thursday
8:00 A.M. - 8:00 P.M.

8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.

9:00 A.M. - 6:00 P.M.

Sunday & Monday

Contact Us

(956) 665-2726

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Current Exhibits

2nd Floor Wall Gallery:

War and Piece of the Rio Grande

3rd Floor Wall Gallery:

Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives

3rd Floor Gallery Cases:


Library Lobby:

Gabrielle Casas Art Exhibit

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Gather Personal knowledge

Write down everything you learn.  You may use forms available in libraries, genealogical societies, and the internet to record the information.  Be sure to always include:

  • Names
  • Dates
  • Activity (birth, marriage, death, etc.)
  • Family names (surnames)
  • Sources (person, book, or archival collection, etc.  Be specific, include author, title, page number, or collection and folder titles)

Begin with getting as much information as you can from your family members. Ask your parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents about family members:  when and where they were born, were married, etc.

Look for family papers, certificates, letters, diaries, photographs, and other sources around the home which may help in constructing a preliminary family history.

Photographs: write as much information as you can with a soft #2 pencil on the back of the photograph, including names, date, location, and event.

Review the information you have, and look for gaps, or where information is uncertain or inexact. Go to the UTRGV Library Special Collections to help fill in your gaps, and to find additional information on earlier generations.  

Federal, State, and County Information

1.      United States Of America Census Information

Census records are an excellent place to begin expanding information on your family.  Begin with the latest census records released, and work backwards to 1850 (the State of Texas was founded in 1848).  Note: the 1890 census was destroyed by fire

 The UTRGV Library subscribes to HeritageQuest, available through the Articles and Databases page, which provides a fully keyword-searchable database of census records.  To access HeritageQuest,you may either log in with a University account, or if you do not have a University account, you may use a computer that is in the Library or on campus.

2.      Social Security Death Index (SSDI)

After a person’s death, their Social Security Number and information are made available.  The Social Security Death Index is a database of deaths reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA) beginning about 1962 that have been purchased and made available by various organizations.  For more information about the SSDI, and links to search pages, go to The Social Security Death Index: A Genealogy Records Guide

3.      Texas County Records Available On Microfilm

The UTRGV Library holds non-current primary county records in microfilm format for Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo, and Starr Counties.  Although the specific records vary by each county, they generally contain information such as court documents, marriage records, deed records, and probate minutes.  To see a listing of what is available on the county microfilm, search in the online catalog for the titles below

Cameron County records [microfilm]

Hidalgo County records [microfilm].

Starr County records [microfilm].

Willacy County records [microfilm].

Search UTRGV Library Archival Resources

The UTRGV Library has both original and photocopied collections that are helpful to genealogists, including the Frank Cushman Pierce Collection (Edinburg Campus), the Camargo Archives (Edinburg Campus), and the Reynosa Archives (Edinburg Campus) and the Border Studies Book Collection (Brownsville Campus).  These materials are either loose papers housed in folders and boxes or bounded books. You must be present in the UTRGV Library Special Collections Reading Room to review these materials; they are not available for checkout or Interlibrary Loan.  You may bring a camera to take pictures of individual pages for personal use.

   1. Go to the Library's Archive Search page

   2. Enter your search term for family names or city.

      TIPS: Use Filters on the left, or Icons to identify lines of interest


                  Digital Object




   3. Click on the folder title to get more information.

   4. When you find items you would like to view, copy and paste the very top line, and e-mail or print a copy of the information.  We will need all of the information on that top line to know what collection, box, and folder you will view during your visit.

Read “How to…” Guides

The UTRGV Library has the following guides which provide more information on conducting genealogical research.  Please note, this is not intended to be a comprehensive listing.  Please ask for assistance in finding additional materials.  


  • The complete idiot's guide to genealogy / by Christine Rose and Kay Germain Ingalls. New York : Alpha Books, c1997. [Electronic Resource] (requires login)
  • The handy book for genealogists / edited by George B. Everton, Sr. 7th edition, revised and enlarged. Logan, Utah  : Everton Publishers, c1981. [2nd floor CS47 .E9 1981]
  • The librarian's genealogy notebook [computer file] : a guide to resources / Dahrl Elizabeth Moore.  Chicago : American Library Association, 1998.  [Electronic Resource] (requires login)


  • Finding your Hispanic roots / George R. Ryskamp. Baltimore : Genealogical Publishing Co., c1997.  [2nd floor CS943 .R97 1997]
  • Genealogical research in Latin America and the Hispanic United States.  Lyman De Platt.  St. George, Utah: Teguayo Press, 1993.  [2nd floor CS 95 .I35 v.1]
  • Hispanic American genealogical sourcebook / edited by Paula K. Byers. New York : Gale Research, c1995.  [2nd floor E184.S75 H563 1995]

Search the UTRGV Library On-Line Catalog for printed books, periodicals, and maps

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Special Collections and Archives has a strong collection of both local history and Hispanic genealogy for southern Texas and northeastern Mexico.  

1. Decide if you want to search by family name or location. 

    • Search by family name if you are trying to gather a lot of information about different members of your family.  When first beginning your research it is recommended that you begin searching by family name. You may be able to find books written by other genealogists with family members related to your own family.  You may also find oral histories in which one of your relations has been recorded talking about their life.
    • Search by location if you are trying to narrow down a few family members, such as looking for a particular birth that took place in a particular city at a particular date.

Some searches may bring up irrelevant  titles, for example, a search of 'Alamo' will bring up many books on the Alamo in San Antonio, as well as the city of Alamo in Hidalgo County.  You may limit your search to "Special Collections" to limit your search to books within the Special Collections room regarding southern Texas and northeastern Mexico.

2. Go to the Library’s Online Catalog Advanced Keyword Search:

3. Limit the search “Location: Special Collections” 

 Example 1:

Advanced Keyword Search:

[Subject] Hinojosa   [or]  Hinojosa family

[Location] Special Collections


Example 2:

Advanced Keyword Search:

 [Subject] Ciudad Camargo

 [Location] Special Collections

Note:  Special Collections attempts to obtain 2 copies of books owned.  Copy 1 is a Reference / Preservation copy and does NOT circulate but may be used within Special Collections.  Copy 2 is a Circulating copy that may be checked out or requested via Interlibrary Loan.

Search UTRGV Library Digital Resources

A few archival resources have been digitized, and the images are available through the Library's Local Digital Collections website.

Popular items are Church records:

And Marks and Brands books